Tuesday, January 11, 2011

some thoughts on my studio in the 619 Western

Pioneer Square has a rich tradition in the arts including the fact that the first Art Walk in the U.S. began in the Square in the mid-seventies. Our 619 Western Arts building has been a haven for artists since 1979.

When I began looking for a studio space in June 2007, I had two hard limits. Or so I thought. I wanted a private space and I did not want to be in a studio that opened to the art walk. While looking for work spaces I saw the ad in craigslist for my current studio: share with 3 other artists and part of Seattle's largest monthly art walk. I read it and tossed it.

But that ad haunted me for the next few days and I couldn't ignore it. I made an appointment with the artist to view the studio. Arriving early, I waited outdoors and walked around the building. Without stepping inside I powerfully knew I had to be there. It was my space.

When I walked in with the artist, the energy in the studio cemented that fact. It was a refuge. The sign above our studio door says "The Sophia Room".


The studio has been a holding tank for creativity and for intimacy. Powerful moments and conversations have taken place not only at art walk but in private studio visits. It's been a safe space that offered healing. I've experienced and shared in not only my own but also others' internal openings.

Potent personal conversations.

I've witnessed joy. I've witnessed tears. I've watched bodies melt as aspects of shame fell away while viewing work.

During private visits, I've seen many someones sit on the little couch and given time, sink into the calm and allow themselves to relax in a manner they admitted was not often accessed.

In some of my most grief-stricken moments, the space would call to me. I'd lay out large white pages on the floor, get on my hands and knees and as tears fell, filled the sheets with big black charcoal marks.

I remember the connections shared at Art Walk with people where their intimidation that came from being surrounded by art began to be dismantled. For many visitors, the 619 building is the first step to connecting with art and artists.

I'm captivated by the unsettling and yet sexy crack that runs down the wall above each door on the north side of the building. I'm infatuated with the stairwell, the old elevator with its grate and the massive beam that runs the width of my studio. Every time I climb the stairs I smile and think of the history because each step is beaten in and deeply worn from many who tread its path.

The two large windows with their deep red paint call to me whenever I'm stuck with a painting. I can sit on the couch and look out onto the viaduct, paying attention to the sound of the traffic. Every once in a while I'm blessed by the smell of salt air that wafts in through the windows. It brings back powerful memories of my New England coastline.

And it's been a place for my painting to flourish and grow as I slowly continue to work toward a level of maturity. Learning to submit to my deeper self. I used to be very private with my work and this studio and special community has provided a safety net where I began to peel away the veil and reveal not only completed works, but the process. It was a letting go of a pride that required I only show my best which I knew was an impossible task and a set up for failure. This studio played a large part in revelation. Revelation of myself to others. Revelations of others to me. And most importantly, revelation of myself to myself.


An era is ending.

With the viaduct coming down in the next year or two, I knew that at some point all the artists in the 619 Western building would be required to leave. In mid-December the SDOT met with the artists and gave their time frame. The 619 artists will be evacuated in March 2012.

We have 15 months notice, which is a blessing. I'm not going anywhere for a while. But the idea of 100 displaced artists attempting to find inexpensive work space is heartbreaking.

The loss is pronounced because the official word is fresh and it's one more sad art item.

In addition to all that's happening in the world, there has been much distressing news in the art segment. The inexcusable censorship at the National Portrait Gallery, the economy that is challenging for artists to live their passion, the culture wars filled with a cacophony attempting to silence the critical importance of art in our lives, individually and as a community, and so much more. I haven't been able to write about it because the feelings run too deep and honestly, touch upon personal wounds.

Everywhere I look I see a society more entrenched in fear than in discovery. A culture ensconced in suspicion instead of invention. What happened to our imagination? Where is our striving for individual voice and personal excellence instead of settling for mediocrity?

So what do I do?

I work to try to keep my heart open.
I attempt to seek out the beauty while not hide from the ugly and the painful.
I continue to create.

And regardless of where my next painting home is, I will never forget the 619.


Kelly said...

Beautiful, eloquent and moving. Thank you.

Marie Gagnon said...

You're welcome Kelly...and thank you!